With taxes, it’s either a sign-waver or Cell Block D
It’s Saturday, and I’m dropping off a truck load of leaves at the Mesa County compost facility. Apparently, the city’s fall leaf program is over.
Near an Orchard Mesa strip mall, I see a guy with a mohawk. He has headphones on and is — why not? — dancing wildly on the side of U.S. Highway 50.
He’s also waving a sign, endorsing a certain tax preparer in a very enthusiastic manner. He’s more excited about this tax preparer than you were on your wedding night. In case the mohawk and highway dance didn’t convince you to hand over all your personal financial information, he’s nattily attired in a foam Statue of Liberty costume. The three-piece suit must have been at the dry cleaners.
It got me thinking about taxes and the torture that is the United States tax code.
In the early ‘90s, I once tried to do my own taxes. I went to the Mesa County library and pulled out the Internal Revenue Code for guidance. After a few excruciatingly boring pages, I said “screw it” and went to where they keep the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition instead. It was gone, however, taken by a homeless guy sitting at a nearby table who seemed to very much approve of its contents. I went back to the Internal Revenue Code.
Preparing your own taxes is like doing your own plumbing repairs. You can do it yourself, but it’s going to involve a lot of hours, a No. 2 pencil and a plunger. Plus, at the end of the day, you’re going to be wet, out $4,000 and on your knees crying.
The first federal income tax was initiated in order to pay for the Civil War. Even then it was just 3 percent on the wealthy and deemed to be “temporary,” ending in “eighteen hundred and sixty-six.” President Lincoln sold the idea to the American public by telling them, “If you like your 0 percent tax rate, you can keep it.”
This is the time of year when Americans can be broken down into two categories:
A. Those who are self-employed.
B. Those who are choosing big screen TVs at Best Buy.
If every American had to write a check for their taxes, the rate would be “0” and our government wouldn’t have money to waste on useless things, such as Egyptian foreign aid, or catfish mating studies, or Harry Reid.
So for those who itemize, it’s important you take all of your legally allowable deductions. If, for example, you had a breakfast burrito at the Main Street Cafe on Feb. 22 costing $8.50, and you mentioned it in a newspaper column for which you received income, the meal would be deductible. All of your children are deductible. Even the ones you don’t want.
Charitable donations are still deductible. For example, my family recently donated a used broken vacuum cleaner worth $5,000 to Goodwill. It says so right there on the receipt I filled out.
Then again, you should be careful. A more aggressive IRS has increased audits and is really going after suspicious people, whom they define as anyone who voted for Mitt Romney.
There are seminars that supposedly teach that you don’t have to pay any taxes and how the 16th Amendment is invalid. The presenters always brag about how they personally haven’t paid taxes for, like, 40 years. My heart is with these people, but my mind tells me that following their advice will lead me to Cell Block D in Leavenworth, where I’ll spend the next 15 to 20 years of my life as a Detroit drug dealer’s sweetheart. Paying taxes is a pain, but not nearly as much as being violated in an east Kansas shower.
The whole tax thing is a hassle, which is why I went to the Rockslide and drowned my sorrows over a pint of beer. It was Feb. 28. It cost $3.